The Collected Letters, Volume 12


TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN ; 1 January 1840; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18400101-TC-JCA-01; CL 12: 3-5


Chelsea, Newyearsday / 1840—

My dear Jean,

This is no suitable answer to your brave long Letter;1 yet I think of sending it, now when the Postage is so cheap, rather than none. You are a decisive despatching woman, and write a most solid effectual Letter, in spite of all obstacles. Poor Jane is in bed today with a headache, or she would have told you for herself how much gratified she was.— In ten days more there will be Penny Postage; we shall then be able to write one another a mere How-d'ye-do, without apprehension of its being too dear. Whenever one likes, or has half a word to say, one may write! A most blessed result, due in good part to the weakness of the present Whig Ministry: they found last year, when they were turned out, that the Tories meant to pass the Postage Bill; wherefore, unexpectedly getting in again, they passed it themselves.2

Precisely the day after your Letter came (I think), there arrived, for the first time this season, a Letter from my Mother.3 All is well there; our good Mother professedly “better than when I saw her”;—nothing wrong except Jamie's little Boy who is still out of his due course somewhat. I had written to my Mother just the day before. I urged your want of Scotsbrig tidings, and said she was to write to you;—which perhaps she has done? I think I will inclose her Letter to me, on this occasion! More for the whimsicality of the thing, that you should get news of Scotsbrig by London, than for any weightier reason. We have a small machine that weighs Letters; if the half-ounce will admit, the thing shall go!

Chartism is out last saturday;4 the Morning Chronicle Newspaper had hold of it yesterday for some purpose of its own;5 I was rather glad they accounted me a kind of Tory,—Heaven send the Tory Party abundance of such Tories, now and in time coming! Two copies of the little Book went off to Scotsbrig by the Edinburgh Steamer a day ago; one for my Mother herself; another for general use: so soon as Jamie and Alick had read it, they were to think of Dumfries. It is but a two-hours work, the getting thro' it.— I suppose your James got his Cobbett's Grammar? Is he making progress in it.

Thanks for the Pipes. I hope they will be here before long. My tobacco will be out next! No supplying of thy wants!— The Pipes I have at present have no “royal arms” on them; mere simple rib-work instead; they are extremely welcome to drop the royal arms.

Jane wrote to her Mother about your poor little unfortunate of a Lassie, to see whether she could do anything for her.6 It is a most melancholy history, as was ever heard. Ah me! there are sore struggles in this world for many;—but they soon all end, and then the question is not how sore they were!

This morning our Doctor has the offer of a new situation! He is out this moment to go and look after it farther. £500 a year for being permanent Physician to some infirm sort of hypochondriacal young gentleman of great wealth, seemingly in the North of Ireland.7 One's prophecy would be that Jack would accept. He is doing nothing at present or as good as nothing;—which in general for a man grown to years of discretion will mean less than nothing! I predict for some time back that he will never get to “practice” on his own footing: this kind of thing is lucrative, is reputable, a man finds himself grown old in it, but with a very comfortable halfpay to sit down upon, by and by. We shall see what the Doctor makes out: a great many “inquiries” need to be gone into first.

The half-ounce will carry the Letter; so it may go! This is no answer to your long Letter; neither do I mean to make it pass for one. You shall hear from some of us before long. By the time of the Penny P. coming on, Jack's question will be decided.— We are just about starting with the Miscellanies—to last till March, I calculate. I hope I shall have some copies for some of you! It is to be in six volumes I rather conjecture; very smart.8 God bless you dear Sister Jean! With Newyears wishes and all manner of wishes— T. Carlyle